New Boundaries for Young People?
We urgently need action in society and schools to support the sexual education of our young people. The horrific accounts of the sexual exploitation of our young people is increasingly evident. Access to the internet has increased their vulnerability on a whole host of ways. All agencies, the community and parents have to work together with the aim of stopping this level of exploitation in our society.
As a teacher, I have had to deal with some terrible cases of abuse, but it is a very clear system, we pass these cases on to more specialised teams in social work, and sometimes the police. Nevertheless, we have to hope that there is a proper system in place for these young people to be passed on to.
Protecting our Young People
On a positive note, I had to deal with a case relatively recently where a young girl disclosed some very serious issues she was experiencing. Her mother’s reaction was truly shocking, she basically said, ‘Well that’s what happens to girls like her’, She was 13 years old! I spoke to the community officer, and we decided we had to get the police involved. I agreed to give a statement, I also agreed to go to court if necessary. In this instance the police were great, they conducted a full investigation, collected CCTV evidence, witness statements and created a case that was so tight it did not have to go to court. The man admitted the offences, and he got a prison term. With a combined effort is possible to punish such terrible behaviour, and protect the girls, not the perpetrators.
Cycle of Problems
Unfortunately, for schools the cycle of problems become a major issue when the behaviour of the young people deteriorates. The psychological scars caused by the abuse becomes so bad that it is impossible to manage them in a school environment. It then becomes even worse for these young people, because they can become lost out of the system altogether.
Some Direction for Our Young People
The decline of proper sex education, and the rise of unmonitored use of the internet has left young people in a wilderness where they do find it difficult to navigate. They need some direction and some help and support, and we can play a major part in this. I remember one particular girl, who constantly and openly and inappropriately boasted about her numerous sexual experiences at 14. I tried to talk to her about ‘self-respect’, she just said ‘I don’t know what you mean, everyone behaves like this, they just don’t say it openly.’ They don’t all behave in this way, but when the sexual behaviour of some of the girls is not challenged, a model of promiscuity is established and normalised, and this is something we need to fight against and work with young people to create an established set of norms. Even if it for us to create a set of boundaries for them to rebel against!
Unfortunately, too many parents do not take the sexual education of their children seriously. One particular year, I had a brilliant group of feisty, clever girls in Y11. I taught the co-ed class the Relationship cluster for the poetry. The girls said to me then that I was the only person they had who had ever spoken to them openly and informatively about sex and relationships. In a mini survey to the class I asked whose parents had discussed sex education with them – there was 3, out of 33! Young people are crying out of for some guidance –
What can be done?
Sex Education – the TV Series
The television series ‘Sex Education’ is not for the faint hearted, but it covers a whole host of topics in an informed and engaging way and gives adults and young people an opportunity to gain an insight into a whole host of topics linked to sex, sexuality, and relationships. Ultimately, it demonstrates how talking through problems with someone you trust is the best way to solve any personal issues.
Teaching Literature is a great way of discussing relationships and introducing moral and social dilemmas for students to discuss and relate to. As is listening to music and exploding how other people deal with their issues.
How we can help…
Proper PSHE, is needed, an approach that looks at how to develop and maintain relationships, not just functional sex education. Young people need a set of boundaries, even if it just something to rebel against. Ultimately, it is time to start looking very closely at how young people are treated and educated, but it needs to be people who truly understand them and have an insight into their lives. A report from a faceless grey suit in Whitehall trotting out yet another initiative is not good enough. As a priority, we need to work together to wipe out attitudes where young people are perceived as ‘deserving’ the abuse. It can be done, but we must start now.
New Boundaries for Young People
At Building Self-Belief, we are in the process of creating a whole series of resources, podcasts and films, that explore relationships and sex education. We will provide guidance and advice for our young people who are navigating a world of contradictions when it comes to relationships and how to behave. Our aim is to provide up to date, sensible advice to help them, and to support the adults guiding them.
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